Julia Kristeva(1941-); Biography and famous works

Julia Kristeva(1941-) is a famous linguist, philosopher, literary theorist, novelist, and psychoanalyst. She was born in Sliven, Bulagaria. She was educated by French nuns, studied linguistics, and worked as a journalist before going to Paris in 1966.

Kristeva, one of the most important feminist authors of the second half of the 20th century, appears to have written during three distinct periods, each with a distinct focus: psychoanalysis, poststructuralist linguistics, and critical biography. These new areas of interest are more like stepping stones on the way to a more sophisticated theory of language, desire, and the unconscious than actual departures. In 2004, she received the prestigious Holberg Prize. In 1965, Kristeva went to Paris to study and signed up for Roland Barthes’ seminars. Currently very knowledgeable in Eastern European phonetics and reasoning, especially crafted by the Russian Formalists and Mikhail Bakhtin, she gave class introductions that presented this work in France. Kristeva used Bakhtin’s work to give structuralism a sense of dynamism and history that it so critically lacked because she saw its limitations as a method.

She proposed the idea of “intertextuality” in a well-known 1966 essay for the French journal Communication (later incorporated into Séméiotiké (1969), partially translated as Desire in Language (1980)) to explain how all aspects of communication are interconnected. Intertextuality, which is in line with Bakhtin’s concept of “dialogism,” holds that there are no intrinsic meanings; rather, all meaning is produced through negotiation between meanings that have already been established. Her theory was influenced by modernist writers like Marcel Proust, James Joyce, and Louis-Ferdinand Céline. The idea of intertextuality was adopted by her teacher Roland Barthes and her contemporary Jacques Derrida in his 1970 book S/Z.

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She joined the Tel Quel group, a small group of philosophers and thinkers who wrote for and identified with the journal of the same name, founded and edited by her then-husband Philippe Sollers, in 1965. Among them were Barthes, Derrida, and Klossowski. After the group converted to Maoism in the late 1960s, Kristeva took part in the 1974 Tel Quel study trip to China, which was undergoing the “Cultural Revolution.” She then wrote About Chinese Women, a highly idealized account of Chinese life. Kristeva went through psychoanalytic training during this time, and in 1979, she became an analyst. By synthesizing a brand-new approach that she dubbed “semanalysis,” she attempted to combine her passions for political philosophy, semiotics, and psychoanalysis. The influential concept of the “khora,” which refers to a pre linguistic and pre-subjective stage of psychosexual development, emerged from this work.

As the 1970s unfolded, Kristeva drifted away from the Tel Quel group and began to focus more on psychoanalysis. She wrote a trilogy of studies on abjection, love, and depression: Powers of Horror (1982), Tales of Love (1983), and Black Sun (1987). The focus of her work is consistently the situation of the subject and its relation to itself and others. Beginning in the late 1980s Kristeva worked on a trilogy on the theme of ‘female genius’, writing comprehensive critical biographies of Hannah Arendt, Collette, and Melanie Klein. As many feminist acts of historical recovery as demonstrations of psychoanalytic prowess, these works seem to portend a move beyond strictly academic work into a more ‘pop’ philosophical realm aimed at a broad readership. She has also written a number of semi-autobiographical works, starting with Les Samouraïs (1990), which are for the post-structuralist generation and what Simone de Beauvoir’s works were for the existentialists.

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